NASHVILLE, Tenn. - One of Nashville's most beloved and outspoken priests retired on Sunday, leaving behind a legacy of compassion and controversy.
"I've been a part of a church of people who care and love one another," Father Joseph Patrick Breen told his congregation at St. Edward Catholic Church Sunday morning.
His decision to retire he says was mandated by his superiors, although he admits he's been on borrowed time. Most Catholic priests retire at age 75, Father Breen is 79.
"Right now we have a challenge to be open minded, to appreciate the differences but remember that we all believe in Jesus Christ," he told a packed church.
The Catholic church kept him from having children and yet so many truly consider him a Father.
"When you say Father Breen, he is our Father here in this parish," explained Jeanne Reasonover who's been a part of St. Edward's for the last four years.
"I've never encountered a priest who really when you come to Mass, you feel his arms wrapping around everyone in the building," she added.
The love he shares with these people is rivaled only by his love for speaking out.
"My life has been full," he said in an interview following his final service.
He's been formally reprimanded by Bishops three times. Vocally supported the idea of female priests, birth control and even homosexuality.
And yet he has no regrets.
"You have to be true to yourself and I think if one person strongly believes in something he or she has to promote that especially if it's for the common good," Father Breen explained.
"I think getting to know all kinds of people makes your life so enjoyable," he added.
While he will no longer have a congregation of his own Father Breen still plans on performing wedding, funerals, christening and other matters of priesthood.
His faith he says, is not something he can not retire from.